This October, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office wants to help raise awareness of domestic violence or intimate partner violence and the lasting effects it can have on our communities. When many think of domestic violence, they might picture conflict between two people in a relationship, but children are also profoundly affected by violence at home in the background. As a child, witnessing domestic violence is traumatic and creates unhealthy perceptions of relationships and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes. Children who witness domestic violence are also at a greater risk of anxiety, depression, withdrawal, aggression, and other developmental issues.
Domestic violence occurs in a cycle, not a single event, and can become more frequent and severe over time, putting children at risk of becoming victims themselves. While child abuse is most commonly thought of as physical harm, it can also include sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional maltreatment. Every case of child abuse is different, but some signs and patterns can point to an unhealthy home environment, including:
- Frequently absent from school and struggles with coursework
- Exhibits extreme behavior, has poor social skills, and struggles to make friends
- Doesn't receive medical attention for previous or recurring injuries
- Lacks healthy habits and hygiene, including frequently wearing dirty clothing
- Lacks adult supervision and struggles following orders
- Unable to focus and constantly acts watchful or paranoid
- Stays late after school and is hesitant to go home
- Parent makes comments that blame, belittle or berate the child and act unconcerned about the child
When these signs occur repeatedly or in combination, it's essential to stop and take a look at the child's home situation, especially when abuse and trauma escalate over time. Additionally, when violence is present in a home, it can point to other stressors, including substance abuse and possible criminal activity. Although domestic violence is thought to be within a family unit, the consequences can affect entire communities and continue the cycle. Make it a habit to pay attention to your family, friends, neighbors, and children and offer support to domestic violence victims. One small action can help break a cycle and drastically improve the lives of many.
If you think a child is being abused or at risk of abuse, you need to report it, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. This hotline is available year-round, 24/7, and completely confidential.
If the child is in immediate danger, don't hesitate to call 911